MLA Ralph Sultan's Oct. 20 letter, Capilano Is No Longer the Farm Team, makes two egregious errors.
First, he calls our original letter "a letter from a retired faculty member." Nonsense! It was a letter I was proud to sign, as the first full-time faculty member of Capilano College, in consultation with and on behalf of some 40 retired faculty, many of whom helped to draft it and all of whom care passionately about what is happening at Capilano University. They are: Joan Acosta (Faculty Emerita), Paul Avery; Gordon Bailey, David Bouvier, Nancy Boyd, Jim Bizzocchi, Robert Camfield, Louise Cantin Orr-Ewing, Hilary Clark, Jean Clifford, Barry Cogswell, Nick Collins, Penny Connell, Rosemary Coupe, Pierre Coupey, Karen Ewing (Faculty Emerita), Michael Freeman, Noga Gayle, Joyce Gee, Reid Gilbert (Faculty Emeritus), Will Goede, Peter Kellington, Olga Kempo, Crawford Kilian (Faculty Emeritus), Marlene LeGates, Sandra Moe, John Pass, Beverley Reid, Laura Renes, Leslie Savage, John Sayre, Azza Sedky, Tony Souza, George Stanley, Sharon Thesen, Karin Vickars (Faculty Emerita), Debbie Vollbrecht, Dorothy E. Young (Faculty Emerita).
We are opposed to President Bulcroft's unilateral dismantlement of Cap. She does not appear to understand the collegial system of decision-making at Cap developed over many years. If a president decides to change the nature and mandate of a university, he or she should first consult in a meaningful way with the members of the institution. That means sitting down together with the faculty representatives, as well as the support staff, and spelling out the proposed changes clearly. Discussion and negotiation follow. This all takes a long time, but in the end, some plan is hammered out and everyone assents, despite whatever reservations might remain.
This has not happened.
You don't need to hire additional administrators to then enforce the new plan on reluctant members of the university, because after the long discussion, everyone is onside and will get the plan implemented. That's Capilano's culture - of which President Bulcroft seems to be quite unaware.
Mr. Sultan's reference to Cap as "the farm team" is an insulting and uninformed bit of political spin. Cap has always been a top-flight institution. He suggests that diploma programs are of lower priority than degree programs. Perhaps he does not know that most of our students who took academic transfer courses at Cap went on to degreegranting universities and did better than the students already there. This saved them and their families a lot in fees and residence costs, and it got them more fully qualified instructors than the teaching assistants at the universities. The diploma programs continue, and people get jobs.
Secondly, in his explanation of the proposed repositioning of Cap (focus on degree completion, we can't do everything for everybody, etc.), Mr. Sultan has actually let the cat out of the bag. We suspected all along that President Bulcroft wished to reduce Cap to being a film and business school, and he has now told us so. President Bulcroft said it was all about budget cuts, but it wasn't: It was about reshaping the university. It seems clear that she intends to do this without consultation either with faculty or the communities we serve. We are not going to sit idly by and see that happen. We have no quarrel whatsoever with film and business courses, but we have a quarrel with shrinking the university into that limited niche, without transparent discussion.
Capilano College/University has proven itself as a brilliant comprehensive institution. For several years after Cap College started, Dr. John Dennison of UBC's Education Faculty tracked our students at UBC and published reports showing that transfer students from Cap consistently achieved higher grades than the students who began their degrees at UBC. In a recent letter to the Capilano Board, former student J. Marc Coté, president and publisher of Cormorant Books in Toronto, stated that the education he got at Capilano was so superior that when he transferred to McGill for third year, several of his professors assumed he was a graduate student and asked to direct his thesis. That's just one anecdote, but I think it speaks loudly.
The university should be kept top flight and comprehensive instead of being turned into a film and business school, designed, not actually to serve the educational needs of North Shore and adjoining communities, but I suspect to reap higher fees from international students. If President Bulcroft truly wanted to find a special niche for Cap, how about the niche of "best comprehensive teaching university in the Lower Mainland"? Here are some specifics of the failure of Dr.
Bulcroft's "leadership," which Mr. Sultan so highly praises, as reported to me by many of the signatories to our collective letter:
¦ A diminishment of educational opportunities for students in B.C., particularly in the arts. Cuts have eliminated, by her admission, 400 full-timeequivalent student spaces.
¦ Serious turmoil and turnover in upper levels of the administration. Three vice-presidents have left since her arrival.
¦ Faulty process in the appointment of senior administrators. All three Arts and Sciences Divisions of the university have passed a motion denouncing the faulty process by which an acting-dean was chosen. That person then declined the appointment and a new and consultative process was asked for, but is apparently still not in place.
¦ Unilateral decisionmaking without faculty or community consultation: there is no strategic or educational plan nor any process in place to create one.
¦ Widespread disaffection within Capilano University and in the community at large. This is true but anecdotal at this point. There is a faculty climate survey currently being collected which could speak to this.
¦ Widespread disaffection among current and potential Capilano Foundation supporters. Some have already indicated that they will no longer make donations; others have said that they want their donations back, unless this administration changes.
In reply to our collective letter calling for President Bulcroft's removal, the chair of the Capilano University Board of Governors wrote me a courteous answer assuring us that they have "full confidence" in her. Given the degree of disturbance and disaffection detailed above, I suggest the board needs to take a second look.
Bill Schermbrucker, PhD
Faculty Emeritus, 1968-2008
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